Rudolf Hermann Brandt (June 2, 1909 – June 2, 1948) was a German SS officer from 1933 to 1945 and a civil servant. A lawyer by profession, Brandt was Personal Administrative Officer to the Reichsführer-SS (Persönlicher Referent vom Reichsführer SS) Heinrich Himmler, and a defendant at the Doctors' Trial at Nuremberg for his part in securing the 86 victims of the Jewish skeleton collection, an attempt to create an anthropological display of plaster body casts and skeletal remains of Jewish Untermenschen.
Life and work
Rudolf Brandt, the son of a railway worker, was born on 2 June 1909, and raised in modest circumstances in the town of Frankfurt an der Oder. Brandt was a member of the student's stenography (shorthand) club at the Realgymnasium, and in 1927, at the age of 18, won a competition with a transcription speed of 360 syllables per minute.
He attended the University of Berlin and the University of Jena (1928–1932), simultaneously working from 1928 to 1930 as a court reporter at the Provisional National Economic Council. Brandt would continue to practice stenography in the evenings with his colleague and former Frankfurt schoolmate Gerhard Herrgesell.
Brandt was awarded a doctorate of law from the University of Jena in July 1933. He joined the Nazi Party in January 1932 (membership number 1,331,536) and the SS in October 1933 (membership number 129,771). Brandt and his skills in transcription were noticed by Heinrich Himmler, who had him transferred to his staff. On 11 December 1933, he joined the Staff of the Reichsführer SS Himmler in the capacity of clerk. In November 1935, he was commissioned an Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant) and ultimately rose to the rank of Standartenführer (Colonel).
In 1936, Brandt was named Chief of the Personal Staff of the Reichsführer SS (Leiter des Persönlichen Stabes RFSS), and in 1937, Persönlicher Referent des RFSS, a position he held until the end of the war in May 1945. In this position Brandt handled Himmler's entire correspondence with the exception of matters pertaining to the Waffen-SS or the Police.
- "Because of his ability as a perfect stenographer, his punctuality, his untiring diligence, he became Himmler's convenient and omnipresent registering, reminding and writing machine, complaining about being overworked, and on the other hand, declaring with pride that he had to produce 3000 – 4000 outgoing letters per year."
- "Brandt would begin work at seven in the morning, no matter what time he had gone to bed the night before. Three or four hours of sleep were sufficient for him. As soon as Himmler had risen in the morning and washed, Brandt would go to him loaded with papers and files, and while Himmler shaved he would read him the most important items of the morning’s mail. This was done with the greatest seriousness. If there was bad news, Brandt would preface it by saying, ”Pardon, Herr Reichsführer,” and thus forewarned, Himmler would temporarily suspend his shaving operations: a precautionary measure to prevent cutting himself. Brandt was certainly most important. He was the eyes and ears of his master and the manner in which he presented a matter to Himmler was often of decisive importance."
In 1938 or 1939, Brandt became Himmler's liaison officer to the Reich Ministry of the Interior and particularly to the Office Secretary of the Interior. In 1943, when Himmler became Minister of the Interior, Brandt was Ministerial Councilor and Head of the Minister's Office in the Reich Ministry of the Interior. Brandt was also a member of the Ahnenerbe society, of which Himmler was President. On account of his poisiton, Brandt was also the liaison officer to the Reich Secretary of the Ahnenerbe Society, Wolfram Sievers.
Brandt was briefly absent from Himmler's office, from 30 March 1941 to 11 May 1941. During this time he fought with the Artillery Regiment of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler in the campaign against Greece.
In August 1944, Brandt informed Standartenführer Guntram Pflaum, whom Himmler had appointed head of pest control, of Himmler's desire to create a "Fly and Gnat Room", where "all SS leaders and police who are either uninterested in the nuisance created by flies or even dismiss it with a superior smile will find they will be taken into care there for some considerable time, during which they will have the opportunity to study the question of flies and gnats from a theoretical angle as well as to enjoy the attentions of the hundreds and thousands of flies and gnats in the room itself."
Brandt was a member of the entourage which accompanied Himmler into hiding, leaving Flensberg on May 10, 1945, with the vague goal of attempting to reach Bavaria. He became separated from Himmler and surrendered along with half of the six-man group to British troops on May 21. Himmler was captured, though not identified, on May 22, along with his Waffen-SS aides, Werner Grothmann and Heinz Macher.
Brandt watched from inside the wire at the Westertimke detention camp when Himmler was brought in with his aides on May 23, 1945. It was then that Himmler identified himself to the camp commandant. Himmler committed suicide later that evening when he bit down on the cyanide ampule about to be discovered by the British physician.
Trial and execution
Rudolf Brandt was indicted after the war by the US Military Tribunal, on charges of:
- Conspiracy to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity;
- War crimes, to wit performing medical experiments without the subjects' consent on prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, as well as participation in the mass-murder of concentration camp inmates;
- Crimes against humanity: committing crimes described under count 2 also on German nationals; and
- Membership in a criminal organization, the SS.
Brandt, in common with most of the defendants at the Doctor's Trial, was acquitted on the first count as the Tribunal felt that it fell outside their jurisdiction.
He was found guilty on the other three counts, as he had been responsible for the administration and coordination of the experiments at the camps. He was hanged on June 2, 1948, his 39th birthday.
The career of Erik Dorf in the 1978 miniseries Holocaust, mirrors that of Brandt. Both were lawyers by profession, both were administrative aides to top SS leaders, and both performed a clerical role in the unfolding of the Final Solution.
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- Ernst Klee: Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, second revised edition, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 71
- Peitz, Detlef. Gerhard Herrgesell: SS-judge and parliamentary stenographer. Simultaneously a contribution to the beginnings of the administration of the German Bundestag. In: Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 141–157
- Statement of Rudolf Brandt from 10 December 1946 on Nuremberg trials Project
- Longerich 2012, p. 344.
- Longerich 2012, p. 735.
- "Medical Case Tribunal Nuremberg Indictment" at www.ess.uwe.ac.uk
- Fragebogen zur Erlangung der Verlobungsgenehmigung; RS-Akte, BArch.-Berlin.
- Trial Transcript Citation: Trial Name: NMT 01. Medical Case - USA v. Karl Brandt, et al., English Transcript: p. 10321 (28 June 1947) Gerhard Herrgesell (Judge of local court).
- Trial Transcript Citation: Trial Name: NMT 01. Medical Case - USA v. Karl Brandt, et al., English Transcript: p. 4997 (26 March 1947) Luitpold Schallermeier (assistant to Karl Wolff in Himmler's office, Waffen SS).
- Trial Transcript Citation: Trial Name: NMT 01. Medical Case - USA v. Karl Brandt, et al., English Transcript: p. 10321 (28 June 1947) Sepp Tiefenbacher (friend of Rudolf Brandt).
- Trial Transcript Citation: Trial Name: NMT 01. Medical Case - USA v. Karl Brandt, et al., English Transcript: p. 4828 (21 March 1947) p. 4997 (26 March 1947) Walter Schellenberg (Gestapo, RSHA; Brigade-Fuehrer, Waffen SS).
- The Labyrinth, Memoirs of Walter Schellenberg, Harper and Brothers, 1956.
- Ernst Klee, Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945, Frankfurt am Main 2005, S. 71.